Jack Ross should get huge credit for this extraordinary quality in Sunderland squad

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Any fears that there would be a hangover from the Checkatrade Trophy Final defeat at Wembley have been well and truly dispelled over the course of the last seven days.

Two tough games on the road could have been a tall task for Jack Ross’ side, with 120 minutes of cup final football in the legs and a heartbreaking penalty shoot-out defeat last Sunday.

Dylan McGeoch.

Dylan McGeoch.

Sunderland’s reaction to that Wembley disappointment – seeing off both Accrington Stanley and Rochdale to make it three league wins in a row – says everything about the extraordinary mental strength in the camp, and a huge slice of the credit should be going Ross’ way in his first season in the hotseat.

Of course, it is a lower standard of football - though try telling that to the 85,000 at Wembley who witnessed a high-quality, full-blooded cup final a week ago - but to turn the team from one with a deep-rooted losing mentality to this resilient must-not-lose unit that we see now is massive testament to Ross and his coaching staff.

Victory at Accrington Stanley on Wednesday night was professional and business-like, while Sunderland had to dig in on Saturday to come from behind and secure a late victory, on a day where most of the other results in League One went their way.

With Barnsley only ahead on goal difference and Sunderland still having two games in hand, the Black Cats are rightly in the driving seat in the push for automatic promotion as we turn into the final straight.

We said three weeks ago that you can’t imagine Luton and Barnsley maintaining their stellar form and that Sunderland and Portsmouth appear to be the only team capable of challenging the top two, and that appears to be the case.

Luton are having a freak run of results and even if the wheels come flying off spectacularly, you’d think they have done enough to secure automatic promotion, but the second spot is very much up for grabs now Barnsley are dropping points left, right and centre.

Another pleasing aspect to the last seven days is the performance of both Charlie Wyke and Dylan McGeouch. We’d seen glimpses of the player McGeouch could be in pre-season but it’s fair to say he hasn’t had the minutes recently.

Nevertheless, he has slotted into the side in Lee Cattermole’s absence and the change has been seamless.

Wyke’s season, meanwhile, was on the verge of being a complete write-off, reduced to bit-part appearances here and there, but is looking sharper and more confident by the game. His long-awaited goal against Rochdale on Saturday was reward for the hard work he has been putting in on the pitch.

There are a lot of games to go and it still remains to be seen if Sunderland can stay the course.

By the end of the 46 games they will have played more football than any of the other sides in the top six by virtue of the Accrington abandonment earlier in the season.

If they don’t have promotion in the bag, you wonder whether they have enough left in the tank for a play-offs campaign.

They’ve already lost at Wembley once this season.

The prospect of returning there at the end of May will be all the motivation this squad needs to get the job done automatically.